Precious revelation of spiritual leadership came to me on the yoga mat. Running a small yoga studio and teaching many classes each week while moving through the ending of my marriage had been both profoundly challenging and deeply healing. One evening after class a student quietly approached me to say, “I know this has been a difficult time for you, but you are present with such grace for every class and I see it’s possible to find some peace even when things are hard.”
Humbled and blessed by her words, I recalled how often I’d invited everyone to take a few extra breaths between postures because I was finding my own. I remembered how the service of teaching had given me respite from my spinning thoughts, calling me to pay attention just to this one breath, then the next, and the next. I knew that over and over again I had shared with others the words I most needed to hear: “There is no place else to be, nothing you need to fix or change to begin this practice. Give yourself permission to be here just as you are.”
Months later, more Yin Yoga training invited me to explore new questions about how I step on the mat and into life as a learner and a teacher. Am I putting myself on my own path or treading someone else’s? Am I running toward or away? Am I willing to look again, not be right, not be the one who knows? Am I willing to approach everyone and everything with honour and respect? Am I willing to show up in the world as I am, to show up from my heart?
I began to consider that spiritual leadership is not about losing all of our baggage, doubt, and uncertainty so that we can bring an all-knowing, never-erring presence to our communities. I started to grow into the concept that spiritual leadership is more about serving with awareness and humility as a compassionate witness to our shared human experience, indeed that we come into leadership the moment we dare not to be ahead of others but rather to be awake and present with them.
To me, this is the work of spiritual leadership: letting go of the need to know everything, becoming alive to seeing what is, and both witnessing and responding to each moment with the compassionate awareness of the heart.